Tractate Peah, Chapter 3, Tosefta 14

September 22nd, 2014 No comments

Tractate Peah, Chapter 3

Tosefta 141

Any olive [tree] in the field, that is especially famous [for something],2 [for example,] as the olive tree of Netofa was [famous] in its time,3 and he forgot [to harvest the olives from] it, it is not [considered] Shikcha (forgotten sheaves) [and therefore the farmer may go back and harvest it when he remembers about it later]. When do we say that [it is not considered Shikcha]? As long as he did not begin [to harvest that tree at all]. But if he began [to harvest that tree, but did not finish harvesting it,] and [then he] forgot [to finish harvesting] it, then it is [considered] Shikcha [and he may not go back and complete harvesting it], unless it still has two Seahs4 [of olives left] on it [in which case it is not considered Shikcha and he may go back and finish harvesting it].5

מסכת פאה פרק ג

תוספתא יד

כָּל הַזַּיִת שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ שֵׁם בַּשָּׂדֶה, כְּזַיִת נְטוֹפָה בִּשְׁעָתוֹ, וְשְׁכָחוֹ, אֵין שִׁכְחָה. בַּמֶּה דְבָרִים אֲמוּרִים? בִּזְמָן שֶׁלֹּא הִתְחִיל בּוֹ. אָבָל אִם הִתְחִיל בּוֹ וּשְׁכָחוֹ הֲרֵי זוֹ שִׁכְחָה עַד שֶׁיְּהֵא בוֹ סָאתַיִם.

  1. Mishna Peah 7:1 states that any olive tree that is famously known due to its name, its olives production, or its location, and therefore is considered different from the rest of the trees in that field, if it is forgotten to be harvested during the harvest it is not considered Shikcha and therefore the farmer may go back and harvest it later and he may prevent the poor people from taking its olives. Mishna Peah 7:2 states that any regular olive tree that still has two Seahs of olives on it is not considered to be Shikcha, as long as the farmer did not begin to harvest it. But if the farmer began harvesting it and then forgot to finish it off, then even if it is a famously known tree, such as the olive tree of Netofa was known in its time, then it is still considered to be Shikcha and the farmer may not go back and complete harvesting it.

    It is not clear what our Tosefta is trying to do with regard to these two Mishnayot. According to Rash Mishantz (Mishna Peah 7:2, Bameh Devarim Amurim) the Tosefta is actually arguing on the law in the Mishna as follows. According to the Mishna any olive tree, even a not famous one, that he did not begin to harvest, as long as it has two Seahs of olives on it, is not considered Shikcha. But if he began harvesting it and then forgot to finish it, then it is considered Shikcha no matter what, even if it is famous and even if it has two Seahs of olives on it left. However, according to the Tosefta, if it is a famous tree, then even if he began harvesting it and forgot to finish it, as long as it has two Seahs of olives left on it, it is not considered Shikcha. But by a regular olive tree the Mishna and the Tosefta agree that even if it has two Seahs on it left, once he forgot to finish it, it is considered Shikcha.

    However according to Talmud Yerushalmi (Peah 7:2, Daf 32a), and the Rambam (Mishna Peah 7:2, Kesheyihyeh) the Tosefta is not arguing on the Mishna, but is merely explaining it. The Tosefta clarifies that the law of the second Mishna about two Seahs is not referring to a regular olive tree, but it is rather referring to the famous olive tree mentioned in the first Mishna. And therefore, according to both the Mishna and the Tosefta, if the tree has both criteria, that it is famous, and it has two Seahs of olives on it, then even he began harvesting it and forgot to finish, then it is still not considered Shikcha. But if it has only one criterion, either it is famous, or it has two Seahs of olives left on it, but not both, then if he began harvesting it then it is considered Shikcha. However, if he did not begin harvesting it then it is not considered Shikcha.

    To avoid confusion I have presented here the details of this argument in the following chart. If the cell contains an X then it is considered Shikcha, but if it is blank then it is not considered Shikcha. The question mark (?) indicates that it is not clear what that opinion is in that particular case.

     

    Rash Mishantz

    Mishna

    Tosefta

    Did not begin harvesting

    Both

     

     

    Famous only

     

     

    Two Seahs only

    X

    ?

    Began harvesting and did not finish

    Both

    X

     

    Famous only

    X

    X

    Two Seahs only

    X

    X

     

    Talmud Yerushalmi and Rambam

    Mishna

    Tosefta

    Did not begin harvesting

    Both

     

     

    Famous only

     

     

    Two Seahs only

     

     

    Began harvesting and did not finish

    Both

     

     

    Famous only

    X

    X

    Two Seahs only

    X

    X

    It seems to me that Talmud Yerushalmi’s and the Rambam’s opinion makes more sense and fits in better into the language of the Tosefta, because according to their logic all of the cases are resolved, whereas according to the Rash Mishantz the case of if he did not begin harvesting and it is not a famous tree, but it has two Seahs of olives on it, remains unresolved.

  2. As I already mentioned, Mishna Peah 7:1 explains what a “famous” tree means. It may have a special name for which it is known, such as “oily” – a tree that in the end produces more olive oil than other trees, or that it is an “embarrassing tree”, because it embarrasses other trees with its overproduction of fruit. See Talmud Yerushalmi (Peah 7:1, Daf 31b). It may also be known after a location where it originated from, such as the Bet Shan tree, because it was originally brought from Bet Shan and planted in this farmer’s field. See Talmud Yerushalmi (Peah 7:1, Daf 31b) and Pnei Moshe (ibid. Bishni). Even if the tree does not have a special name, but it is still known for its production of large fruit, then it is considered “famous”. Finally, if the tree is known for its location, such as a tree growing next to a wine press, or next to a hole in the fence, and people refer to it by that location, then it is considered “famous” as well.

    The reason why a famous tree is not considered to be Shikcha is derived from a verse by Talmud Yerushalmi (Peah 7:1, Daf 31b). The Torah says (Devarim 24:19), “When you will harvest your harvest in your field and you will forget a sheaf in the field ” implying that the sheaf has to be forgotten forever. However, we assume that the farmer will eventually remember his famous tree, even if he forgot about it for a while, and therefore it is not considered Shikcha.

    Today there are a few such famous trees in the Land of Israel that are known by name. For example, the date palm Methuselah, named after the oldest person in the Torah, the only extant Judaean Date Palm cultivar that has been grown from a seed found in Herod’s palace in Masada during the excavations there in the mid-1960s. The seed was planted and germinated in 2005 by Professor Elaine Solowey from the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, Kibbutz Ketura, Israel, and then transferred on November 24, 2011 into the ground on the territory of Kibbutz Ketura in the Arava desert in southern Israel, where it is growing today. See Sarah Sallon, Elaine Solowey, Yuval Cohen, Raia Korchinsky, Markus Egli, Ivan Woodhatch, Orit Simchoni and Mordechai Kislev, "Germination, Genetics, and Growth of an Ancient Date Seed", Science, 13 June 2008, Vol. 320 no. 5882 p. 1464, and http://www.hadassah.org/site/apps/nlnet/content.aspx?c=keJNIWOvElH&b=5772823&ct=11521097&notoc=1, accessed September 21, 2014.

     

    Judean Date Palm, nicknamed Methuselah, growing at Kibbutz Ketura, Israel. July 8, 2012. Photo: Benjitheijneb, Wikimedia Commons.

    Among olive trees in the Land of Israel there are a few very old ones, known by special names. There is a very old tree known in Arabic as Zeitoun Ahmad Al-Badawi – Ahmad the Bedouin’s olive tree, or in short, Al-Badawi (البدوي), growing in the village of Al-Walaja, near Jerusalem and Bethlehem, in the West Bank. The tree is estimated to be a few thousand years old although no official scientific study has been conducted to verify what its age is exactly. 

     

    Al-Badawi olive tree in the village of Al-Walaja, West Bank, Israel, near Bethlehem. Photo: stopthewall.org.

    There are 8 olive trees in Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane (גת שמנים – Gat Shemanim) at the Church of All Nations, on which a detailed study was done by the National Research Council of Italy Trees and Timber Institute CNR-IVALSA. C14 radio carbon dating verified that the current living tissue inside the tree trunks dates as follows: tree #1 – year 1198 CE, tree #4 – year 1092 CE, and tree #7 – year 1166 CE. Unfortunately, the tree trunks of all of the 8 trees are hollow inside due to their age, so there is no way to verify how old the trees really are, since the older material in their trunks is missing, but judging on the diameter of their trunks, which vary between 5-10 meters the trees are much older (probably 2000 – 3000 years old) than 900 years verified by radio carbon dating. See http://www.ivalsa.cnr.it/en/news/dettaglio-news/article/i-segreti-del-giardino-del-getsemani.html, accessed on September 21, 2014; and M. Kislev, Y. Tabak and O. Simhoni, “Identifying the Names of Fruits in Ancient Rabbinic Literature”, Leshonenu, vol. 69, p.279 (Hebrew).

     

    Italian research team taking samples from one of the 8 trees at the Garden of Gethsemane on August 23, 2010. Photo: CNR-IVALSA Trees and Timber Institute.

  3. It is not clear how to translate the phrase כְּזַיִת נְטוֹפָה בִּשְׁעָתוֹ (Kezayit Netofa Beshaato) due to a variation in the spelling of the word Netofa. In the Mishna, both in in the Kaufmann and Parma manuscripts, and in Talmud Yerushalmi (Peah 7:1, Daf 31a), in the Leiden manuscript, it is written הַנְטוֹפָה (Hanetofa), with a definite article “ה”, which means “the”. That changes the meaning of the word and implies that it is not a proper name, but rather a descriptor of the object. Therefore, Talmud Yerushalmi (Peah 7:1, Daf 31b) translates it to mean, “as an olive tree that sometimes drips [with oil],” meaning that this tree during some seasons produces a large amount of oil producing olives, more than other trees, which is what makes it special. However, in the Munich Manuscript of Talmud Bavli (Mishna Peah 7:1) and in both manuscripts of the Tosefta it is written נְטוֹפָה (Netofa), without the definite article “ה”, which implies that it is a proper name of a place. Therefore, the Rambam (Mishna Peah 7:1, Venetofa), and the Aruch (Nataf) say that both the Mishna, and obviously the Tosefta, are referring to a specific tree from a town called Netofa, which was famous for its olive production at some particular time in history, and they were called “the olives of Netofa”.

    The town of Netofa is mentioned in three places in the Tanach. In Shmuel 2, (Shmuel 2, 23:28-29) where it is described as being located on a hill. And in Ezra (Ezra 2:22) and Nechemya (Nechemya 7:26), where it implies that it was located next to Bethlehem in Judaea. During the Byzantine period it was called Metofa. Today it is an Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem called Umm Tuba. Archaeological digs in Umm Tuba in 2006 and 2009 have confirmed that it is the Biblical as well as the Talmudic Netufa. See press release from Israel Antiquities Authority, “Greetings from Ahimelekh and Yehokhil, from Netofa in Judah”, February 23, 2009, http://antiquities.org.il/article_Item_eng.asp?sec_id=25&subj_id=240&id=1496&module_id=#as, accessed on September 21, 2014, and Zubair Adawi, “Jerusalem Har Homa Final Report”, Excavations and Surveys in Israel, Journal 120,  http://www.hadashot-esi.org.il/report_detail_eng.asp?id=866&mag_id=114, accessed on September 21, 2014.

    Terrain Map from Google Maps of Netofa from November 6, 2012.

    Netofa should not be confused with another place in Israel called Bet Netofa, which is located in the Lower Galilee in the Valley of Bet Netofa. The Bet Netofa Valley is mentioned in the Mishna (Sheviit 9:5) and in Midrash Rabbah (Bereishit Rabbah 79:6), as a place where Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai visited during the Shemitah year, sometime at the end of the 1st, beginning of the 2nd centuries CE. Bet Netufa is known today as Churvat Bet Netufa (the destroyed Bet Netufa). The reason for its name (literally: the place of dripping) is explained by the Rambam (Mishna Sheviit 9:5). It is called The Place of Dripping because the ground gets very wet there during the rainy season.

    The Bet Netofa Valley as seen from Moshav Hararit. June 5, 2012. Photo: Ori, Wikimedia Commons.

     
    Terrain Map from Google Maps of Bet Netofa Valley from November 6, 2012.
     

    Ironically, in the towns surrounding the Bet Netofa Valley there are still many olive trees which are at least hundreds, and possibly thousands of years old, as their trunks are many meters in diameter. However, that does not really distinguish them from the olive trees in Netofa in Judaea, because the Al-Badawi olive tree is located near there, and it is possible that there used to be many more such old trees in that area as well. 

    Old olive tree in Deir Hana, Israel near the Bet Netofa Valley. Photo: Kobi Zilberstein, Panoramio.

    It is not clear which Netofa the Tosefta is referring to, but since it does not mention the word “Bet” I would assume that it is talking about Netofa in Judaea.

    I have chosen to translate the word Netofa as a name of the specific location and not as a descriptive term since that is what the reading in the Tosefta manuscripts implies. It is not mentioned in any extant sources that the olives of Netofa in Judaea or Bet Netofa in the Galilee were extra special compared to other olives in Israel, but this Tosefta implies that there was at least one tree there which was very well known during some period in time and legends about it remained until the time of the Tosefta.

  4. For an explanation of what is a Seah and why the cutoff limit for any forgotten entity is two Seahs see above Tosefta Peah 2:13, note 7.

  5. Chazon Yechezkel (Tosefta Peah 3:14, Bezman Shelo Hitchil Bo and Harei Zeh Shikcha) explains that the difference between whether the farmer started harvesting that tree or not is in the technicality of what is being forgotten. If he did not begin to harvest the tree then the farmer forgot the whole tree and therefore since the tree is famous we assume that eventually he will remember it. But if he already harvested a part of the tree and he just forgot to finish harvesting it then he did not forget the whole tree, but rather he forgot individual olives on the tree and those olives are not famous by themselves, so we assume that he would not remember to go get those olives.

    To me this explanation is farfetched and does not make sense. It simply plays on a legal technicality of what has been forgotten, but in the mind of the farmer his famous tree is the same as the olives on that famous tree, so therefore it should not make a difference whether part of the tree has been forgotten or if it was the whole tree. Either way that tree is famous and we assume that the farmer will remember it.

    It seems to me that the difference whether he started harvesting the tree or not lies in the amount of olives that have been forgotten. All the laws in this Tosefta are not Torah laws. They are all Rabbinical laws. And even though Talmud Yerushalmi cites a verse to support the law of the famous tree it seems to be a regular Asmachta (a reference from the Tanach for a Rabbinical law). This can further be seen from the fact that the person in the Yerushalmi who mentions this derivation is Rebbi Lah, also known as Rebbi Ilah, whom I already mentioned earlier (see Tosefta 3:11, note 2) as someone famous for stating Asmachtas. During the 3rd century CE, when the Tosefta and the Mishna were written, the Rabbis wanted to protect the farmers from losing too much produce, due to bad farming conditions and rapid inflation. See above Tosefta 2:17, note 4. Therefore they made general rules about when the farmer will most probably lose too much produce and when he will only lose a little bit, which will not hurt him. If the farmer forgot to harvest a whole tree then we assume that that tree contains a large amount of produce, although unknown how much exactly, and therefore we allow the farmer to go back and harvest it. But if he already harvested a part of that tree then it depends how much he forgot on it. If he forgot two Seahs or more then we consider that a lot and the farmer may go back and get it. But if there was less than two Seahs then it is relatively insignificant and the farmer has to leave it for the poor. Of course, this law applies only if the tree is famous, so we assume that the farmer will remember it.

    However, if the tree is not famous then the minimum amount that  the farmer has to forget in order to be allowed to go back and harvest them, is at least three trees growing together, as stated in Mishna Peah 7:1. You may wonder, how come the Rabbis chose to protect the farmer more with a famous tree as opposed to a regular tree, since most trees in any given field are regular, not famous, trees? It seems to me that the Rabbis had to find a legal loop hole, such as the Asmachta of Rebbi Ilah, in order to create this extra protection, because they had to override the standard Torah law of Shikcha which says, that one or two forgotten entities, be they stalks, sheaves, trees, or grapes, are considered Shikcha, but not three. See above Tosefta Peah 3:10, note 1. Without this Asmachta they would need to follow the default law, which required at least three entities to be forgotten in order for them not be considered Shikcha.

    It should be noted that Mishna Peah 7:1 mentions the opinion of Rebbi Yossi who says that Shikcha does not apply to olives at all. Talmud Yerushalmi quotes Rebbi Shimon Ben Yakim, also known as Rebbi Shimon Ben Elyakim, a student of Rebbi Yochanan and a Palestinian Amorah of the 2nd generation, who explains that this was a special enactment made by Rebbi Yossi after the Bar Kochba rebellion, roughly in 135 CE, when the Roman Emperor Hadrian uprooted most trees in Judaea, or as the Yerushalmi puts it, “destroyed all of the Land of Israel”, which he used to build siege engines for the war. However, later, during Rebbi Shimon Ben Yakim’s time, about 50 years after the end of the Bar Kochba rebellion, when the trees grew back and olives were common again, that law did not apply. For various Talmudic sources about aspects of Rebbi Shimon Ben Elyakim’s life see Aharon Heiman, “Toledot Tannaim Veamorayim”, Volume 3, London, 1909, entry Rebbi Shimon Ben Elyakim, pp. 1156-1157. This clearly proves that the whole reasoning behind the laws in this Tosefta and its parallel Mishna is the protection of the farmers. 

 

Tosefta Shiur on Wednesday Nights in Chandler, AZ

June 26th, 2014 No comments

I am currently giving a shiur on the Tosefta that follows my edition at the Chabad of Chandler Shul in Chandler, AZ on Wednesday nights at 7:30 pm. The audio recordings of the shiur get posted every week on the Audio page. If you are in the Phoenix, AZ area and would like to join please contact me.

The Morning Bathers in Tosefta Yadayim 2:9

August 19th, 2013 8 comments

Someone contacted me and asked me to explain who were the Morning Immersers (aka Morning Bathers) mentioned in Tosefta Yadayim 2:9, and what is their relationsship to early Christians. 

In this particular Tosefta Zockermandel's edition makes a mistake in his quote of the manuscript (he was rushing to copy it in the Berlin library) and should not be used. Zuckermandel's text of this Tosefta does not match the Vienna manuscript and or the first printed edition.  We are left with three variations of the text: Vienna manuscript, Venice First Printed Edition and the quote of this Tosefta from Rash MiShantz in his commentary on Mishna Yadaim 4:8. All other later printed editions are not reliable since they have not been edited from Tosefta manuscripts but rather from the Venice edition and other books like Talmud Bavli, so they often quote other Beraitot which are related in content but are different.

Now let's look at this Tosefta. Here are the three quotes:
 
Vienna Manuscript:
 
אומרין טובלי שחרין קובלנו עליכם פרושין שאתם מזכירין את השם בשחרית בלא טבילה אומ' פרושין קובלנו עליכם טובלי שחרין שאתם מזכירין את השם מן הגוף שיש בו טומאה.
 
Morning Immersers say, "We accuse you, Pharisees (Perushim), that you mention [God’s] name in the morning without [first] immersing [in the Mikveh upon waking up.]" Pharisees say, "We accuse you, Morning Immersers, that you [ever] mention [God’s] name using (literally: from) the body which has Tumah (ritual impurity) in it (i.e inside it)."
 
Venice First Printed Edition:
 
או' טיבלני שחרית קובלני עליכם פרושין שאתם מזכירי' את השם מן הגוף שיש בו טומאה.
 
Morning Immersers say, "We accuse you, Pharisees, that you [ever] mention [God’s] name using (literally: from) the body which has Tumah (ritual impurity) in it  (i.e inside it)."
 
Rash Mishnantz (Commentary on MIshna Yadayim 4:8):
 
אומרים טובלי שחרית קובלנו עליכם פרושים שאתם מזכירים את השם בשחרית בלא טבילה. אומרים פרושים קובלנו עליכם טובלי שחרית שאתם מזכירים את השם מן הגוף שיש בו טומאה.
 
Morning Immersers say, "We accuse you, Pharisees, that you mention [God’s] name in the morning without [first] immersing [in the Mikveh upon waking up.]" Pharisees say, "We accuse you, Morning Immersers, that you [ever] mention [God’s] name using (literally: from) the body which has Tumah (ritual impurity) in it  (i.e inside it)."
 

From a quick glance all versions make sense as far as something that these two groups might have said to each other, however after you look into it the Vienna manuscript (and Rash Mishantz) have the correct reading, and not just because they match each other. Let me explain how.

Who were these Morning Immersers? They were a Jewish (non-Christian) sect called by Justin Martyr (see Dialogue with Trypho 80) Baptist Pharisees and by Epiphanius (Panarion 1:11:1:1, 1-11:2:5) Hemerobaptists. Josephus (Life of Josephus 12) also mentions his Essene teacher, Bannus, who dipped in the Mikveh many times a day and night and could have been a Hemerobaptist. Eusebius (Ecclesiastical History 4:22) mentions Hemerobaptists as a non-Christian sect. An early Christian work, Clementina (from the 2nd century CE), (Homilies 2:23) mentions that John the Baptist and his disciples were Hemerobaptists. The Talmud Bavli (Berachot 22a) mentions that Hemerobaptists still existed during the time of Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi who lived in the 3rd century CE since he mentioned them and the Talmud implies that they were a Jewish sect, as Rash Mishantz (ibid.) understands. That means that all of the Christian sources about them are contemporary and not just historical.

Now what's the halachic problem that this argument between Hemerobaptists and Pharisees is about? This depends on whose point of view this argument is explained from. We only have an official record of the explanation from the Talmud Bavli, which is the point of view of the Pharisees. However, the Essenes and the Morning Bathers themselves would have explained it totally differently. 

The Gemara's (based on Berachot 22a) explanation is as follows. A man at night may have become a Baal Keri (had a seminal emission). That means that according to the Halacha of the Pharisees he did not require to immerse in the Mikveh in order to be able to pronounce God's name, but rather he only needed to have 9 Kavs of water dumped on him from a bucket. This was the law during Temple times as attested in Talmud Bavli (Berachot 22a), since it's originally quoted in the name of Nachum Ish Gamzu who lived before the Temple's destruction. However the Hemerobaptists required that a man who had a seminal emission had to immerse in the Mikveh. So the Hemerobaptists accused the Pharisees that they mentioned God's name in the morning while being ritually impure due to seminal emissions. However the Pharisees replied back to Hemerobaptists with an insulting facetious comment. They said that how can Hemerobaptists ever say God's name since their bodies are ritually impure inside, meaning in their souls, because they do not follow Rabbinic instructions. The Pharisees did not mean it to be a serious reply. They simply wanted to insult the Hemerobaptists and make fun of them. Now that we understand it that way, then as you can see the version of the Venice Printed Edition does not make any sense. It quotes that the Hemerobaptists insult the Pharisees with a facetious comment, and that does not make any sense, since the Hemerobaptists took their Mikveh immersions very seriously and would not insult anyone about it. Also it does not make sense that the Tosefta would mention the quote of one group without the reply of the other. 

It is interesting that by the 4th century CE many Rabbinic Jews started following the rule of Hemerobaptists and started immersing in the Mikveh in the morning if they had a seminal emission, as quoted by Talmud Bavli (Berachot 22a) in the name of Rabbi Chanina. The anonymous voice (Stama) of the editors of the Talmud itself has forgotten about the existence of Hemerobaptists and only knows the current practice of when it was compiled, which had regular Rabbinic Jews immersing in the Mikveh for seminal emissions, and therefore it praises it as a great stringency. But eventually that practice died out as well and has not existed until the Hassidic movement in the 18th century. It seems that it only was practiced in the Land of Israel and once the Jewish centers of learning moved to Babylonia in the 5th century CE that practice died out. As time went on the same practice changed its reasons and appeal to different groups. So during Temple times Pharisees were against these morning immersions. But by the 4th century they were for them. There are Orthodox Jewish sects today who still have the practice of daily immersion, such as Lubavitch Hassidim. Their men immerse in the Mikveh every morning, even on Shabbat. As far as I know they are the only ones who do this as a group. From my discussions with them they don't do it because of Baal Keri, but rather because of a general purification for no apparent halachic reason. 

However, this whole practic fromt he point of view of the Essenes and the Monrning Bathers themselves had a totally different meaning. Essenes and similar groups were always paranoid that they may not have noticed how they became impure, so just in case they kept on immersing. Also they had additional more esoteric reasons for their immersions. They believed that immersion in the Mikveh purified sin and therefore was required all the time, not as a halachic rule, but rather as spritual purification from spiritual problems. For various sources from the Dead Sea Scrolls that attest to this belief and their comparison to the views of the Pharisees in the Talmudic literature see Hannah Harrington, Purity Texts, Continuum, 2007. 

 

 

 

Tractate Peah, Chapter 2, Tosefta 21 has been updated

July 30th, 2013 No comments

I have significantly updated the commentary for Tractate Peah, Chapter 2, Tosefta 21, Note 1 and added new pictures. Read it here.

Tractate Peah, Chapter 3, Tosefta 13

November 4th, 2012 1 comment

 

Tractate Peah, Chapter 3

Tosefta 131

[A person] who is cutting gavels2 [of grain, with intention] to bundle them into sheaves later [and not right away],3 and also [a person who is piling up] heaps4 of garlic [with intention to make from the heaps] bundles of garlic,5 or [spread out] onions,6 [later and not right away, if any of these gavels of grain or heaps of garlic, or spread out onions, have been forgotten in the field, the law of] Shikcha (forgotten sheaves) does not apply to them, [and therefore they still belong to the owner, who can go back and retrieve them.]7 [A person] who is binding sheaves,8 because of [an approaching] fire or because of an irrigation canal9 [that broke through and is about to flood the field, if any of these sheaves have been forgotten in the field the law of] Shikcha does not apply to them, [and therefore they still belong to the owner, who can go back and retrieve them,] because he (i.e. the farmer) will check10 [the field for any forgotten sheaves, since he is not harvesting them, but rather moving them out of the way of the fire or flooding water.]11 It happened with a certain pious person12 that he forgot a sheaf in his field [during harvest,] and he said to his son, “Go [to the Temple in Jerusalem] and sacrifice in my name a bull for Korban Olah (burnt-offering)13 and a bull for Korban Shlamim (peace-offering).”14 He (i.e. his son) said [back] to him (i.e. the father), “Father! What have you seen in this commandment [of Shikcha that caused you] to rejoice [about it] more than all [other] commandments that are mentioned in the Torah?”15 He (i.e. the father) said [back] to him (i.e. the son), “All [other] commandments [that are mentioned] in the Torah have been given to us by God [to be executed] consciously (i.e. on purpose with intent). [But] this [commandment of Shikcha was given to us by God to be executed] unconsciously (i.e. accidentally due to forgetfulness), because if we would have done it willingly (i.e. left the sheaf in the field on purpose for the poor to take) in front of God, this commandment would not be counted for us [as a fulfilled commandment of Shikcha, but rather as a random act of kindness.]”16 He (i.e. the son) said [back] to him (i.e. the father), “It says [in the Torah], ‘When you will harvest your harvest in your field and you will forget a sheaf in the field, do not go back to take it. It shall be [left there] for the Non-Jewish resident, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that Hashem, your God, will bless you with all the deeds of your hand.’ (Devarim 24:19) The verse has granted him (i.e. the farmer who left the sheaf in the field) a blessing. [But why did the verse need to say explicitly that the farmer will get a blessing?] Is not it a Kal Vechomer (derivation from minor to major) [which can be concluded by us logically without the need of an explicit verse]? Just like someone who did not intend to do something good, but he [ended up] doing something good [anyway], the verse considers him as if he has done something good, so for sure someone who intended to do something good, and [ended up] doing something good [that he meant to do] how much more so [should get a blessing]?”17 Similarly, [it says in the Torah:] “If a soul from the common people sins by accident by doing one of the negative commandments of Hashem, and becomes guilty of it. When his sin which he sinned will become known to him … (the verses go on to describe the sacrifice that the sinner should bring) … and the priest will atone for him, and he will be forgiven.” (Vayikra 4:27-31)18 And it is a Kal Vechomer [which can be concluded by us logically]!19 Just like someone who did not intend to sin, but sinned [anyway], we consider him as if he sinned. So someone who intended to sin and [then] sinned, how much more so [should be considered as if he sinned. And therefore will for sure get punished.]20

מסכת פאה פרק ג

תוספתא יג

הָחוֹתֵךְ כְּרִיכוֹת וְעָתִיד לְעַמְּרָן, וְכֵן אוֹגוּרֵי הַשּׁוּם וַאֲגוּדּוֹת הַשּׁוּם, וְהַבְּצָלִים, אֵין לָהֵן שִׁכְחָה. הַמְעַמֵּר מִפְּנֵי הַדְּלֵיקָה וּמִפְּנֵי אַמַּת הַמַּיִם, אֵין לָהֵן שִׁכְחָה מִפְּנֵי שֶׁעָתִיד לִבְחֹן. מַעֲשֶׂה בְּחָסִיד אֶחָד שֶׁשָּׁכַח עוֹמֶר בְּתוֹךְ שָׂדֵהוּ וְאָמַר לִבְנוֹ, "צֵא וְהַקְרֵיב עָלַי פָּר לְעוֹלָה וּפָר לִשְׁלָמִים." אָמַר לוֹ, "אַבָּא מָה רָאִיתָ לִשְׂמוֹחַ בְּמִצְוָה זוֹ מִכָּל מִצְוֹת הָאֲמוּרוֹת בַּתּוֹרָה?" אָמַר לוֹ, "כָּל מִצְוֹת שֶׁבַּתּוֹרָה נָתַן לָנוּ הַמָּקוֹם לְדַעְתֵּנוּ. זוֹ שֶׁלֹּא לְדַעְתֵּנוּ שֶׁאִילּוּ עֲשִׂינוּהָ בְּרָצוֹן לִפְנֵי הַמָּקוֹם לֹא בָּאת מִצְוָה זוֹ לְיָדֵינוּ." אָמַר לוֹ, "הֲרֵי הוּא אוֹמר (דברים כד:יט) כִּי תִקְצֹר קְצִירְךָ בְשָׂדֶךָ וְשָׁכַחְתָּ עֹמֶר בַּשָּׂדֶה, לֹא תָשׁוּב לְקַחְתּוֹ, לַגֵּר לַיָּתוֹם וְלָאַלְמָנָה, יִהְיֶה, לְמַעַן יְבָרֶכְךָ ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכֹל מַעֲשֵׂה יָדֶיךָ. קָבַע לוֹ הַכָּתוב בְּרָכָה. וַהֲלֹא דְבָרִים קַל וָחוֹמֶר? מָה אִם מִי שֶׁלֹּא מִּתְכַּוֵּין לִזְכּוֹת וְזָכָה מַעֲלִין עָלָיו כְּאִילּוּ זָכָה, הַמִּתְכַּוֵּין לִזְכּוֹת וְזָכָה עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה. כַּיּוֹצֵא בוֹ: (ויקרא ד:כז-לא) וְאִם נֶפֶשׁ אַחַת תֶּחֱטָא בִשְׁגָגָה, מֵעַם הָאָרֶץ,  בַּעֲשֹׂתָהּ אַחַת מִמִּצְו‍ֹת ה', אֲשֶׁר לֹא תֵעָשֶׂינָה וְאָשֵׁם. אוֹ הוֹדַע אֵלָיו חַטָּאתוֹ אֲשֶׁר חָטָא וכו' וְכִפֶּר עָלָיו הַכֹּהֵן, וְנִסְלַח לוֹ.  וַהֲרֵי דְבָרִים קַל וָחוֹמֶר! מָה אִם מִי שֶׁלֹּא מִתְכַּוֵּין לַחֲטוֹא וְחָטָא מַעֲלִין עָלָיו כְּאִילּוּ חָטָא, הַמִּתְכַּוֵּן לַחֲטוֹא וְחָטָא עַל אַחַת כַּמָּה וְכַמָּה."

Notes:

 

1. In Mishna Peah 6:10 there are a few variant readings in different manuscripts that significantly alter the meaning of the Mishna. The text of the Mishna that resembles the text of our Tosefta the closest is from Manuscript Parma (Biblioteca Palatina, Parma, Manuscript 3173 (De Rossi 138)). It states that grain which has been dedicated for destruction (i.e. non-human consumption, such as animal feed or fuel), or [grain that has been dedicated] to be tied into single sheaves  [without any intent to stook them into stooks and stack them into stacks,] and also [a person who is piling up] heaps of garlic [with intention to make from the heaps] bundles of garlic, or [spread out] onions, [later and not right away, if any of these gavels of grain or heaps of garlic, or spread out onions, have been forgotten in the field, the law of] Shikcha (forgotten sheaves) does not apply to them. The first statement in our Tosefta expands on this law and will be explained in detail in the following notes. The second statement of the Tosefta states a new law, which is not discussed in the Mishna on a similar subject of what type of harvested grain does not qualify to be considered Shikcha if it was forgotten.

Notice that the Mishna specifically uses the word אלומה (Aluma), "sheaf”, as a technical term to emphasize that these sheaves are intended to be kept as small single sheaves that will not be stooked or stacked, which is what is done normally, as was already explained above in Tosefta Peah 3:5, notes 2-4. The Tosefta’s case of the sheaves is slightly different than the Mishna’s. In the Mishna the farmer planned not to stook the individual sheaves and leave them as they are. But in the Tosefta the farmer planned to leave untied gavels in the field and not tie them into sheaves until later.

I have shown photos of the three main Mishna manuscripts below to emphasize the difference in the readings of the Mishna. As can be seen from them only the Parma manuscript follows closely the language of the Tosefta, whereas the Kaufman Manuscript (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Kaufmann Collection, Manuscript A50) and the Munich Manuscript (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich, Manuscript 95) have different readings with different meaning.
 
Mishna Peah 6:10 from the Parma Manuscript.
 
Mishna Peah 6:10 from the Munich Manuscript.
 
Mishna Peah 6:10 from the Kaufmann Manuscript.
 

2. For an explanation of what gavels are see above Tosefta Peah 3:10, note 2.

3. As was explained above in Tosefta Peah 3:10, note 2, and is clearly visible there on Abel Grimmer’s painting, An Allegory of Summer, the standard harvesting procedure was for the front row of harvesters to cut the gavels of grain with sickles and then for the second row of harvesters to immediately tie them into sheaves. However, if for whatever reason the farmer decided not to tie the gavels right away, but rather leave them in the field untied until a later point in time, then the process of making sheaves remains incomplete until the sheaves are actually tied and therefore if a gavel is forgotten and does not qualify to be considered Shikcha, since Shikcha requires the process of bundling sheaves to be completed.

4. The correct reading here is אוֹגוּרֵי (Ogurei), meaning “heaps”, as it appears in the Erfurt manuscript, and not אֲגוּדֵּי (Agudei), meaning “bundles”, since that does not make any sense for two reasons. First the next word in the Tosefta is bundles of garlic, so it would be repetitive, and second it would make sense from the harvesting procedure point, since garlic is first heaped into piles and then tied into bundles as will be explained in the next note.

5. Garlic is a very gentle vegetable which requires very careful handling. Even today garlic is usually picked by hand so that it would not get damaged by equipment. Once it is picked it is carefully piled into heaps in the field. Garlic requires curing (drying) after it is picked for about 2-4 weeks in order to prepare it for storage. Curing causes the garlic bulbs to become completely dry, which enables them to remain fresh for a few months without refrigeration. This is commonly done by tying up individual bulbs of garlic into bundles and then hanging them up in a cool dry spot. Normally the garlic is tied into bundles immediately after it is piled into heaps. The procedure was probably done on a massive scale by two rows of farmers in a similar fashion as making sheaves from gavels of grain. The front row would pick the garlic by hand out of the ground and pile them into heaps and then the back row would come behind them, tie each few garlic bulbs into bundles, and then transport them to a barn for curing. However, if for whatever reason the farmer decided to leave heaps of garlic bulbs in the field and bundle them later, then if one of those heaps was forgotten, Shikcha does not apply to it since the process of bundling was not completed.
 
Heaps of garlic piled in the field during garlic harvest. Tourne-Sol Cooperative Farm, Les Cèdres, Quebec, Canada, July 2011. Photo: goingtoseed.wordpress.com. Notice the heaps are not tied yet, but are spaced out in a way so it would be easy to tie them.
 
Farmers picking and tying garlic into bundles. Tourne-Sol Cooperative Farm, Les Cèdres, Quebec, Canada, July 2011. Photo: goingtoseed.wordpress.com. Notice the bundles are picked by some farmers and tied by others for efficiency.
 
Harvested garlic awaiting collection in rural Goheung county, South Jeolla province, South Korea, October 2007. Photo: Steve46814, Wikimedia Commons. Notice that individual garlic bulbs have been tied into bundles ready to be hung up for curing.
 
Hanging garlic bundles curing in a barn. Wooleylot Farm, Potter County, Pennsylvania, November 2011. Photo: wooleylot.wordpress.com.
 
6. Onions were harvested in a similar manner to garlic, by hand, but they were not tied into bundles for curing, because they are too big and heavy and it is not practical to bundle them. Instead onions were dried in the field in the open, for a few days, and then after that they were transported into a barn. The Tosefta specifically does not mention “bundles of onions”, but rather it just says plainly “onions”, in order to emphasize that it is referring to spread out onions which are being cured and not bundles. Shikcha would apply to onions after they have been cured in the field and ready for transport into barns, which would be the completion of the harvesting process of onions. However, onions that were just forgotten in the field before the initial curing process has been completed are not yet considered to be harvested and therefore Shikcha does not apply to them.
 
Onions curing in a field. Ontario, Canada. Photo: www.omafra.gov.on.ca. Notice that they are spread out and not tied into bundles like garlic.

7. It is obvious that the whole point of this law is to allow the owner to go back to the field and retrieve his forgotten gavels of grain or garlic or onion bulbs, once he remembered that they were left there, since there is no way for the poor people to know if the gavels or bulbs were forgotten by the farmer before he completed the harvesting process or after he completed the harvesting process. Tosefta Peah 3:10 clearly stated that Shikcha does apply to gavels of grain, so the difference between our case here and that Tosefta is the intent of the owner, and not the gavels or bulbs themselves. Hence, the whole point of this law is let the owner know if he is allowed to retrieve them or not, and not for the poor to know if they are allowed to take them or not if they see them. Once the owner of the field allowed the poor to go into his field and collect Shikcha, the poor can assume that any gavel forgotten in the field can be taken by them as Shikcha, since the harvesting process must have been completed by the farmer, because otherwise he simply would not allow them to go into his field to collect Shikcha.

8. As was explained earlier in Tosefta Peah 3:5, note 1, the expression of מְעַמֵּר (Meamer), “binding sheaves”, can refer to either binding a single sheaf, stooking, or stacking, depending on the context. In this particular Tosefta it is used in a more generic fashion. It makes no difference whether the farmer is binding a single sheaf, stooking or stacking, and this law would apply equally to all of these cases. The whole point of the Tosefta is the reason why he is doing it, which is not for the purpose of harvesting, but rather in order to get them out from the approaching fire or flooding water.

9. אַמַּת הַמַּיִם (Amat Hamayim) usually refers to an irrigation canal, although it can also mean a river-arm. I have chosen to translate it as “irrigation canal”, since in the Land of Israel there are almost no rivers that flow all year around and most field were irrigated by artificial canals which received water collected in pits or from flash floods.

10. The correct translation of the word לִבְחֹן (Livchon), is “to check”, as pointed out here by Saul Lieberman in Tosefta Kifshuta. See Michael Sokoloff, “A Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic,” Bar Ilan University Press, 2002, p. 90, entry בחן, who points out that in Syriac this word has the same meaning. 

I have chosen the reading of both Vienna and Erfurt manuscripts, which is לִבְחֹן (Livchon), “to check”. The reading of the printed editions,לאבדן  (Leavdan), “to lose”, meaning that whatever sheaves get forgotten will for sure be lost to the fire or flooding water,  does not really make sense. Because if the farmer is going to lose them anyway for sure the poor should be allowed to take them, at least if not as Shikcha, then as Hefker (ownerless produce). However, the Tosefta implies that they cannot take them, because they are not considered Shikcha. If the Tosefta would have considered them Hefker it would have stated so explicitly as it did in other cases. For example, see above Tosefta Peah 1:5. 

The reading of Cheshek Shlomo, ליבדן (Livdan), which he explains means “to untie and spread on the ground in order to retie better” is completely unfounded and does not have a source in any extant or mentioned manuscript. It also does not make sense, because why would the farmer need to untie the sheaves in order to retie them better, since they are already tied, even if not perfectly?

11. Shikcha only applies if the sheaves were forgotten during harvest. However, if they were simply being moved out of the way of the fire or flooding water, which is clearly not a harvest, they cannot be considered Shikcha. Also, since the farmer knows that he is just moving them he will naturally try to get them all out and therefore as long as he has time he will go back and check for any forgotten sheaves. Although it may appear from the wording of the Tosefta that the reason why these sheaves, if forgotten, are not considered Shikcha is because the farmer will purposefully go back and check for them, that is not what the Tosefta really means. What it is really saying is that the farmer is allowed to go back and check for them, because they are not considered Shikcha. The reason being is I explained.

12. The Tosefta does not name the person by name. Chasdei David claims that this story is about Rebbi Yehuda Ben Bava. His reasoning is that Talmud Bavli (Bava Kama 103b) says that anywhere in Talmudic literature when it says מַעֲשֶׂה בְּחָסִיד אֶחָד (Maaseh Bechasid Echad), “it happened with a certain pious person,” it is a reference to either Rebbi Yehuda Ben Bava or Rebbi Yehuda Ben Rebbi Ilay. Chasdei David asserts that out of these two people only Rebbi Yehuda Ben Bava lived before the destruction of the Second Temple, whereas Rebbi Yehuda Ben Rebbi Ilay was born after the destruction of the Temple, so since this story mentions sacrifices it must be referring to Rebbi Yehuda Ben Bava. I would like to point out that this identification is not correct. Rebbi Yehuda Ben Bava was killed by Emperor Hadrian’s soldiers at the end of the Bar Kochba Revolt, most probably in 135 CE, since he was killed after Rebbi Akiva’s execution, but possibly as early as 132 CE in the beginning of the revolt, while ordaining his five main students. See Talmud Bavli (Sanhedrin 14a) and Masechta Semachot 8:9. He was killed at the age of 80. See Midrash Eleh Ezkera, edition Jellinek, Leipzig, 1853, p. 11. This means he was born around 52 – 55 CE, 15 to 18 years before the destruction of the Temple, which took place in the year 70 CE. This means that when the Temple was destroyed Rebbi Yehuda Ben Bava was only 15 – 18 years old, too young to have a son to whom he could tell to go and bring a sacrifice. Of course, Midrash Eleh Ezkera, the source for his age, is late and of poetic form and may not be historically accurate. The only way for this story to work out is if Rebbi Yehuda Ben Bava’s son was born when Rebbi Yehuda Ben Bava was 18 years old and he himself would have been 18 years old before the destruction of the Temple, which would make Rebbi Yehuda Ben Bava 36 years of age in the year 70 CE. This would imply that he was born at the latest in 34 CE, being 98 years old at the time of his killing. Of course it is possible, but extremely unlikely. It must be that this rule cited in the Gemara about the identification of “a certain pious person” is not as universal as it sounds to be, because it is in contradiction with other facts as I have mentioned. 

13. For a description of Korban Olah see Vayikra 1:3-17 and Mishna Zevachim 5:4.

14. For a description of Korban Shlamim see Vayikra 3:1-17 and Mishna Zevachim 5:7.

15. The father got so excited that he now had the opportunity to fulfill the Mitzvah (commandment) of Shikcha, he decided to bring two sacrifices, and use a bull for each of them, the most expensive option, even though he had a choice to use a smaller, cheaper animal, such as a sheep or a goat, and for Korban Olah, he could have even used a bird. The son was certainly surprised by the father’s choice.

16. Since Shikcha could only be fulfilled accidentally, and not on purpose, it is a relatively rare commandment, hence the father’s great excitement. It should be noted, that in order to fulfill Shikcha it is not enough to just forget a sheaf and never realize that it has been forgotten. The farmer has to realize that he has forgotten a sheaf and yet not go back to get it. Only then Shikcha is fulfilled. Therefore it is not as common of an occurrence as one might think it is.

17. I have quoted the son’s response as it appears in the Erfurt manuscript. The Vienna manuscript has the wording confused and does not make any sense.

The verse clearly says that the reason the farmer gets the blessing is not, because he forgot the sheaf, since that was an accident, but rather, because when he remembered about it he does not go back to get it. That act of not going back to get it is conscious. So the son asks the father, that from day-to-day life we know that if someone does something good by accident everyone considers it a good act and gives the person credit for it. So for sure we give credit to someone who has done a good act on purpose. In the case of Shikcha the Torah says that the farmer will get a blessing from Hashem if he does not go back and get the sheaf that he forgot. Why does the Torah need to say that? Of course the farmer should get a blessing, since he for sure gets credit for leaving the sheaf for the poor consciously. 

The Tosefta does not say what the father replied to the son. The son’s question can be answered in many ways. For example, the Torah wanted to emphasize that if he leaves the sheaf for the poor he will get a blessing, implying that if he goes back to get it then he will be cursed by God. The Torah merely used a positive expression to make people feel good about it. The son was being too technical with his question, and therefore such technicality did not really need an answer from the father.

18. I have quoted the verse that is written in the Erfurt manuscript, which is talking about Korban Chatat (sin-offering) of an individual. The Vienna manuscript refers to a different verse (Vayikra 5:17-18), which is talking about Korban Asham Talui (guilt-offering in case of doubt). Both of these sacrifices are brought in case of a violation of a negative commandment for which the punishment is Karet (excision), such as eating blood or forbidden fats (Cheilev), if it is violated on purpose. The difference between the two sacrifices is whether the person who committed the act knows about it for sure or not. If he knows for sure that he did the violation then he brings Korban Chatat, but if he does not know for sure and he is in doubt that may be he did not do it then he brings Korban Asham Talui. 

It seems to me that it does not really matter which verse is quoted by the Tosefta. The Tosefta’s point is merely that the violation was done accidentally and not on purpose, and yet it is still called a sin. So how much more so it is called a sin if it was done on purpose! 

19. It seems to me that this is a statement and not a question as will be explained in the next note.

20. If we assume that the Tosefta is asking a question about some rhetorical part of the verse then it becomes not clear what the Tosefta’s point is and what the Kal Vechomer actually is. The verse is talking about an accidental act, so it is not obvious if it is a sin or not. The verse has to teach us that it is still considered a sin and therefore requires a sacrifice to atone for it. It seems that the Tosefta is merely making a rhetorical statement about how seriously the Torah takes sins, that if it considers an accidental act a sin, then how much more so it considers a conscious violation a sin and therefore the offender will for sure be punished. This second statement is not a part of the conversation between the father and the son. It is just an addition of the Tosefta to balance out the discussion about good acts with a similar comment regarding a bad act.
 

 

Tractate Sanhedrin, Chapter 8, Tosefta 4

August 22nd, 2012 2 comments

Someone asked me to translate and explain the following Tosefta. The text of this Tosefta is only extant in the Erfurt manuscript. The Vienna manuscript is missing it. The printed editions have slightly different text. I have posted here the text from the Erfurt manuscript as is.

 

Tractate Sanhedrin, Chapter 8

Tosefta 41

Adam (i.e. the first man) was created last [in the sequence of creation].2 And why was he created last? In order that the sectarians3 would not say, "He (i.e. Adam) was partners with Him (i.e. God) in his creation", [but rather God created everything by Himself without any help.] [But there is] another explanation. Why was he (i.e. Adam) created last? In order that he should not get too proud of himself,4 [because others] will say to him, “[Even] the mosquito was created before you in [the sequence of] creation.” [But there is] another explanation. In order that he (i.e. Adam) should perform a commandment (Mitzva) right away [after being created].5 [But there is] another explanation.  In order that he (i.e. Adam) should eat a meal right away.6 I will give you a parable to what this [idea] is similar to. [It is similar] to a king who built a [new] palace and dedicated it [by making a celebration], and declared [as a part of that celebration] a meal, and afterwards he invited guests. And so it says, "Wisdom has built her house, hewn her seven pillars. She butchered [her meat], mixed her wine, [and] even set her table. She has sent out her maidens to call out on the city’s hills and high places. ‘Which fool will move here?’, she says to him, [who is] impulsive." (Mishlei 9:1-4) "Wisdom has built her house …" refers to The King of Kings, Blessed be He, who created His world in seven [days] with wisdom. "… hewn her seven pillars" refers to the seven days of creation. "She butchered [her meat], mixed her wine …" refers to the seas, rivers, deserts, and other needs of the world. "She has sent out her maidens to call out on the city's hills and high places. 'Which fool will move here?', she says to him, [who is] impulsive." That is a reference to Adam and Chava (i.e. the first man and woman).7

 

מסכת סנהדרין פרק ח

תוספתא ד

אדם נברא באחרונה. ולמה נברא באחרונה? שלא יהו המינין אומרין שותף היה עמו במעשהו. דבר אחר: למה נברא באחרונה? שלא תזוח דעתו עליו, אומרין לו יתוש קדמך במעשה בראשית. דבר אחר: כדי שיכנס למצוה מיד. דבר אחר: כדי שיכנס לסעודה מיד. מושלו משל למה הדבר דומה, למלך שבנה פלטירין וחינכה והתקין סעודה ואחר כך זימן האורחים. וכן הוא אומר (משלי ט:א-ד)חָכְמוֹת בָּנְתָה בֵיתָהּ, חָצְבָה עַמּוּדֶיהָ שִׁבְעָה. טָבְחָה טִבְחָהּ מָסְכָה יֵינָהּ, אַף, עָרְכָה שֻׁלְחָנָהּ. שָׁלְחָה נַעֲרֹתֶיהָ תִקְרָא, עַל גַּפֵּי, מְרֹמֵי קָרֶת. מִי פֶתִי יָסֻר הֵנָּה, חֲסַר לֵב אָמְרָה לּוֹ.  חָכְמוֹת בָּנְתָה בֵיתָהּ זה מלך מלכי המלכים ברוך הוא שברא עולמו בשבעה בחכמה. חָצְבָה עַמּוּדֶיהָ שִׁבְעָה אילו שבעת ימי בראשית. טָבְחָה טִבְחָהּ מָסְכָה יֵינָהּ אילו ימים ונהרות ומדברות ושאר צורכי העולם. ואחר כך שָׁלְחָה נַעֲרֹתֶיהָ תִקְרָא, עַל גַּפֵּי, מְרֹמֵי קָרֶת. מִי פֶתִי יָסֻר הֵנָּה, חֲסַר לֵב, זה אדם וחוה.

 

Notes:

  1. This Tosefta continues the discussion Adam's creation, from the previous Tosefta.

  2. See Bereishit 1:1 – 2:3 for the sequence of creation. 

  3. The Hebrew word Min (literally: type) usually refers to some kind of sect of Jews who have deviated from normative Rabbinic Judaism and created a sort of their own religion. As a generalization the Rabbis have viewed Tzedukim (Sadducees), early Jewish Christians (Notzrim or Nazarenes as they called them), and Essenes as sectarian Jews and applied the word Min to them as a general term. However in this particular case it would be a major oversimplification and would not do them justice to apply this term generically, because it is obvious that the Tosefta is referring to a very particular practice of a particular sect, whose belief was a clear sign of membership. I am more than convinced that here the Tosefta is referring to Christians who believed in the Trinity and subscribed to the idea that Jesus being divine and the second in the Trinity, pre-existed creation of the world and assisted God in creating the world. To the best of my knowledge the earliest explicit written source that we have for this belief is Irenaeus (estimated 115/142 – 202 CE), one of the Church Fathers, who wrote (The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 30), "Hither were the prophets sent by God through the Holy Spirit; and they instructed the people and turned them to the God of their fathers, the Almighty; and they became heralds of the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God, declaring that from the posterity of David His flesh should blossom forth; that after the flesh He might be the son of David, who was the son of Abraham by a long succession; but according to the spirit Son of God, pre-existing with the Father, begotten before all the creation of the world, and at the end of the times appearing to all the world as man, the Word of God gathering up in Himself all things that are in heaven and that are on earth." Thus by the time of the Tosefta (circa 250 CE) this Christian belief was for sure widely known. It should be noted that at that time not all Christians subscribed to the idea of Jesus pre-existing his birth, and many sects such as the Arians, Ebionites and some others were against that belief. It was not until the First Council of Nicaea in 325 CE that this belief became more or less main stream in Christianity.

  4. Meaning proud and arrogant.

  5. It is not clear which commandment the Tosefta is referring to. It seems that the Tosefta is referring to the Mitzva of Shabbat, since Adam was created on the sixth day right before Shabbat and the first thing he would have to do was to keep Shabbat. This goes along the Rabbis' belief that Adam kept all of the commandments of the Torah together with the Patriarchs.

  6. The Rabbis always assumed that their protagonists in the Torah kept all the commandments in the exact same way as the were kept by the Rabbis themselves. So if Adam kept Shabbat he obviously ate three meals on it as the Rabbis prescribed (see Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 117b), one on Friday night, and two on Shabbat day. So the meal that Adam would eat right after his creation would be the Friday night, Shabbat meal.
  7. This verse is interpreted as Chava, being the maiden, calling Adam, being the fool, to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, and him being implulsive, coming and eating it without thinking of the consequences.

Tractate Peah, Chapter 3, Tosefta 12

June 13th, 2012 No comments

 

Tractate Peah, Chapter 3

Tosefta 121

The power of the poor person2 is stronger with regards to standing crops than with regards to a sheaf. And [yet at the same time the power of the poor person] is stronger with regards to a sheaf than with regards to standing crops.3 Because [all three gifts to the poor:] Leket (fallen stalks), Shikcha (forgotten sheaves) and Peah (corners of the field) apply to standing crops,4 but it is not so with regards to a sheaf, [to which only Shikcha and Peah apply, but Leket does not.]5 And [yet the opposite is true as well since] the sheaf that is two Seahs6 [in size by volume] and has been forgotten, is not considered to be Shikcha, unless it is smaller7 than two Seahs, [whereas standing crops are not considered Shikcha even if they are smaller than two Seahs in size, as long as they have the potential of being two Seahs in size in a different year due to better growth.]8

מסכת פאה פרק ג

תוספתא יב

יָפֶה כֹּחַ עָנִי בַּקָּמָה יֹתֵר מבָּעוֹמֶר, וּבָעוֹמֶר יוֹתֵר מִבַּקָּמָה. שֶׁהַקָּמָה יֵשׁ לָהּ לֶקֶט, שִׁכְחָה, וּפֵיאָה, מָה שֶׁאֵין כֵּן בָּעוֹמֶר. וְהָעוֹמֶר שֶׁיֵּשׁ בּוֹ סָאתַיִם וּשְׁכָחוֹ אֵין זוֹ שִׁכְחָה עַד שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ סָאתָיִם.

 

Notes:

  1. The Tosefta continues to explain the Chachamim’s response to Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel, why his Kal Vechomer (derivation from minor to major) does not work. See note 8 on the previous Tosefta. It is even possible that this Tosefta is part of the direct quote of the Chachamim’s response to Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel, in which case it should not have been separated into a separate paragraph, but rather should have remained attached to the previous Tosefta. Since I am following the numbering system of the Tosefta printed in the back of the Vilna edition of Talmud Bavli, I have chosen to keep it separate and not put the text in quotations leaving the possibility that this is merely a separate clarification of the Chachamim’s statement made by the Tosefta’s redactor and not by the Chachamim themselves.

  2. The expression “the power of the poor person” refers to the ability of the poor person being capable of collecting the gifts to the poor. If by law he can collect more gifts in a given case than his power is stronger, whereas if by law he can collect less gifts in a given case than his power is weaker.

  3. The Tosefta will explain in the following sentence in which case the poor can collect more gifts with regards to standing crops than sheaves and in which case they can collect more with regards to sheaves than standing crops.

  4. This is self-evident and has been explained on many occasions throughout this tractate until this point.

  5. Shikcha applies to sheaves by definition. See Devarim 24:19-21. It was mentioned above in Tosefta Peah 1:6 that Peah applies to sheaves as well. However, Leket by definition applies to single dropped stalks as they are being cut, and therefore cannot apply to sheaves. See Mishna Peah 6:5.

  6. For an explanation of the measure of Seah see above Tosefta Peah 2:11, note 7, in the middle of the note.

  7. In the Vienna manuscript the text reads עַד שֶׁיש בּוֹ סָאתָיִם, “unless it is larger than two Seahs.” (Literally: until there are in it two Seahs) Although this reading can be explained in an awkward fashion by inserting extra words, I have chosen to change it to the reading of the Erfurt manuscript, which reads עַד שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ סָאתָיִם, “unless it is smaller than two Seahs,” (literally: until there are no two Seahs in it) because it makes a lot more sense and makes the text flow much better.

  8. See note 8 on the previous Tosefta for an explanation of this case.

Tractate Peah, Chapter 3, Tosefta 11

June 12th, 2012 No comments

Tractate Peah, Chapter 3

Tosefta 111

When did they (i.e. the Rabbis)2 say [that] standing crops [that have not been forgotten] disqualify3 a sheaf [that was forgotten next to those standing crops from being considered Shikcha (forgotten sheaves)]? At the time when [the standing crops] were not taken in the middle (i.e. between the time when the sheaf was forgotten and remembered by the farmer), but if [the standing crops] were taken in the middle (i.e. prior to the farmer remembering that he forgot that sheaf) then it does not disqualify [that sheaf from being considered Shikcha, and the farmer cannot go back and take it for himself].4 “The standing crops of his (i.e. the farmer’s) friend [that were not forgotten] disqualify his (i.e. the farmer’s) [own standing crops that were forgotten from being considered Shikcha], [the standing crops] of wheat [that were not forgotten disqualify the standing crops] of barley [that were forgotten from being considered Shikcha], [the standing crops] of a non-Jew [that were not forgotten disqualify the standing crops] of a Jew [that were forgotten from being considered Shikcha].” These are the words of Rebbi Meir. But the Chachamim (Sages) say, “[Standing crops that were not forgotten] do not disqualify [other standing crops that were forgotten], unless they were his (i.e. the farmer’s and not someone else’s) [own] and [they were] of the same kind [of crops].”5 Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel says, “Just like standing crops [that were not forgotten] disqualify a sheaf [that was forgotten from being considered Shikcha], so too the sheaf [that was not forgotten] disqualifies standing crops [that were forgotten from being considered Shikcha].6 And [the reason for this law] is a Kal Vechomer (derivation from minor to major) [which goes as follows]. Since standing crops by which the power of the poor person is weak7 [have the capability to] disqualify a sheaf [from being considered Shikcha], then for sure a sheaf by which the power of the poor person is strong should [have the capability to] disqualify standing crops.”8 They (i.e. the Chachamim) said [back] to him (i.e. Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel), “Rebbi! [That is not correct, because the reverse argument can be made as well, as follows.] Just like standing crops can disqualify a sheaf by which the power of the poor person is strong [from being considered Shikcha], so too the sheaf should disqualify the standing crops by which the power of the poor person is [also] strong [for a different reason as explained in the next Tosefta] [from being considered Shikcha].”9, 10

מסכת פאה פרק ג

תוספתא יא

אֵימָתַי אָמְרוּ קָמָה מַצֶּלֶת אֶת הָעוֹמֶר? בִּזְמָן שֶׁלֹּא נִיטְּלָה מִבִּנְתַּיִם, הָא אִם נִיטְּלָה מִבִּנְתַּיִם הֲרֵי זוֹ אֵין מַצֶּלֶת. קָמַת חֲבֵירוֹ מַצֶּלֶת עַל שֶׁלּוֹ, שֶׁל חִטִּין עַל שֶׁל שְׂעוֹרִין, שֶׁל נָכְרִי עַל שֶׁל יִשְׂרָאֵל, דִּבְרֵי רבי מֵאִיר. וַחֲכָמִים אוֹמְרים אֵין מַצֶּלֶת אֶלָּא עַל שֶׁלּוֹ וּמִמִּין עַל מִינוֹ. רַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן גַּמְלִיאֵל אוֹמר כְּשֵׁם שֶׁהַקָּמָה מַצֶּלֶת אֶת הָעוֹמֶר כָּךְ הָעוֹמֶר מַצִּיל אֶת הַקָּמָה, וְדִין הוּא מָה אִם קָמָה שֶהוּרַע כֹּחַ עָנִי בָּהּ הֲרֵי הִיא מַצֶּלֶת אֶת הָעוֹמֶר עוֹמֶר שֶׁיִּיפָּה כֹּחַ עָנִי בּוֹ אֵינוֹ דִּין שֶׁיַּצִּיל אֶת הַקָּמָה. אָמרו לוֹ, רבי! מָה לַקָּמָה שֶׁמַּצֶּלֶת אֶת הָעוֹמֶר שֶׁהֲרֵי יִיפָּה כֹּח עָנִי בּוֹ יַצִּיל עוֹמֶר אֶת הַקָּמָה שֶׁהֲרֵי יִיפָּה כֹּחַ עָנִי בָּהּ.

 

Notes:

  1. Mishna Peah 6:8 states that regular standing crops in any amount (even a single stalk) that have not been forgotten by the farmer and thus are not Shikcha themselves disqualify other standing crops and sheaves that are located next to them from becoming Shikcha if they were forgotten by the farmer. However, sheaves in any amount (even one) that have not been forgotten by the farmer do not disqualify standing crops or other sheaves that have been forgotten by the farmer from becoming Shikcha. The Mishna does not explain the reason for this law. Our Tosefta comes to explain the reason for the law and clarify some of its details.

  2. It is clear from the wording of the Tosefta that this law is a Rabbinical enactment and not a Torah law. If the Tosefta would have thought that it was a Torah law it would have said “When did the Torah say …” instead of “When did they (i.e. the Rabbis) say … ”. However, Talmud Yerushalmi (Peah 6:6, Daf 30b) quotes Rebbi saying that the reason for this law is the verse in the Torah (Devarim 24:19), which says “When you harvest your harvest in your field and you forget a sheaf in the field, you should not go back to take it …”. The verse repeats the word “field” twice, the second time being superfluous. Rebbi says that from this expression we see that the forgotten sheaf is only considered Shikcha when it is located in the field full of harvested stuff, but not of still unharvested, standing crops. The second time “field” is mentioned in the verse with regard to the forgotten sheaf is coming to teach you that the field where the sheaf was forgotten must be the same type of field as described by the first part of the verse, namely a harvested field, where the crops have been cut down, and not a field of standing crops.

There are two possible ways how we can look at Rebbi’s reasoning in the Yerushalmi. He could be in agreement with the Tosefta that this law is Rabbinical and his derivation from the verse in the Torah is merely an Asmachta (a reference from the Tanach for a Rabbinical law). Or he could be arguing on the Tosefta and hold that this is not a Rabbinical law, but rather a Torah law with this verse being as its real source. I think the key to this question lies in the fact who actually made the statement of this derivation from the verse. In the printed editions of the Yerushalmi, as well as the Leiden manuscript, it is Rebbi who makes this statement. Rebbi without a name always refers to Rebbi Yehuda Hanassi, the author of the Mishna. It is common for him to reject statements in the Tosefta in favor of other traditions and therefore if he is really the author of this statement then I would tend to believe that he is arguing on the Tosefta and holds that this is a true Torah law. However, in the Yerushalmi edition of Rabeinu Shlomo Sirillio (printed in the back of the Vilna Yerushalmi) the text reads “Rebbi Ilah” (רבי אילא) instead of just “Rebbi”. There are a few people in the Talmudic literature with this name, so we cannot be totally sure which one of them the Yerushalmi is quoting, but it would be most likely that he is a 3rd generation Amorah, also known as Rebbi Ilai II (רבי אלעאי), who studied under Rav, Rav Yochanan and Reish Lakish and was a contemporary of Rebbi Zeira. See Talmud Yerushalmi (Sotah 9:11, Daf 44b), (Sukkah 1:1, Daf 1b), and (Gittin 5:1, Daf 27a). If he is the author of this derivation then it is most likely that it is an Asmachta and the law is Rabbinical as the Tosefta says, since he would have no authority to argue on the Tosefta without a supporting Beraita, which he does not quote. Therefore most probably he made this derivation based on his own logic and not based on an earlier tradition, which is very common among Amoraim. Based on the context and the type of statement made it is my opinion that the correct reading in the Yerushalmi is Rebbi Ilah as printed in Rash Sirillio’s edition and not Rebbi as in the Leiden manuscript.

  1. Literally means “saves”, meaning that it saves the crops for the farmer from being given away to the poor.

  2. The Tosefta clarifies that although the Rabbis have enacted this law in favor of the farmer they still put a break on it in favor of the poor. This way they have enacted a balanced rule which sometimes protects the farmer from losing too much crop to the poor and sometimes benefits the poor. This goes along well with their intent to protect poor farmers who may be desperate for every bit of crop they can get. See above, Tosefta Peah 2:17, note 1, and Peah 3:1, note 3.

  3. Rabeinu Shlomo Sirillio (Commentary on Talmud Yerushalmi, Peah 6:6, Kamat Chaveiro Matzelet Et Shelo) explains that the reason for the argument between Rebbi Meir and the Chachamim is a technicality in the verse which is cited is the source for this law by Rebbi Ilah, which I already mentioned above in note 2. The verse mentions the word “field” twice. The first time it says “your field” and the second time is just says plainly “field”. Rebbi Meir chose the second mentioning of “field” as the main source for this law and therefore since it is mentioned plainly it implies that this can be any kind of field, regardless of what is planted there or who the field belongs to. However, the Chachamim chose to use the first mentioning of the word “field”, which states “your field”, and therefore a field that belongs to your friend or to a Non-Jew will not qualify. It is obvious, that this explanation does not fit in very well with the case of barley and wheat, since “your field” does not imply that this has to be a field planted with the same kind of crops. This problem can be possibly explained away by stating that “your field” means that the second type of standing crops has to be the same as the standing crops in “your field” (i.e. the same kind as the first type standing crops).

Be that is it may, I tend to believe that the real source for the argument between the Chachamim and Rebbi Meir is a difference in tradition regardless the original enactment of this Rabbinic law. The verse is merely used as an Asmachta as I already explained above in note 2, and therefore is not the original source of the argument. Rebbi Meir holds that when the Rabbis enacted this law they did not put wide limits on it, because they did intended to protect poor farmers to an extreme extent and therefore in all of these odd cases the second set of standing crops is disqualified from being Shikcha and therefore still belongs to the farmer. However, the Chachamim held that the Rabbis tried to limit this law as much as possible in in order to protect the poor who are collecting Shikcha, and therefore they held that in all of these cases the second set of standing crops remains Shikcha and therefore belongs to the poor.

  1. Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel extends this law from standing crops affecting adjacent standing crops to sheaves and vice versa. He clearly argues on the Mishna which explicitly states that this law only applies to standing crops affecting standing crops, and not to sheaves which cannot disqualify adjacent standing crops or other sheaves from being Shikcha.

  2. Meaning that the poor are capable to take more produce as their gifts when they are taking sheaves, as opposed to when they are taking standing crops. See the next note for clarification.

  3. The next Tosefta states that both standing crops and sheaves give a special power to the poor over them, as far what they can collect in different cases. All three gifts to the poor, Leket, Shikcha and Peah, apply to standing crops, whereas only Shikcha and Peah apply to sheaves (see above Tosefta Peah 1:6), but not Leket, which be definition only applies to single stalks. This is a clear indication that standing crops give more power to the poor as far as what they can take than sheaves do. However, there is one specific law regarding sheaves where the poor can take more produce by volume as sheaves than standing crops. If a sheaf is two Seahs in volume or more it is too big to be considered Shikcha and the poor cannot take it. See Mishna Peah 6:6. However, standing crops that are even less than two Seahs in volume growing together, but could have been two Seahs in volume in a different year (due to better growth that year) are not considered to be Shikcha. See Mishna Peah 6:7. This shows an odd case where the poor actually get more crops by volume with a sheaf than with standing crops.

Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel in his Kal Vechomer chose to use this odd case as an indication that poor people have more power with sheaves than with standing crops. For some reason, he completely ignored that in most cases the poor have more power with standing crops than with sheaves, since only two of the three gifts are applicable to sheaves, but all three gifts are applicable to standing crops.

This ignorance of the more common case makes this Kal Vechomer very strange. Due to this problem Saul Lieberman in Tosefta Kifshuta wrote that there must be a mistake in the wording of the Tosefta, and instead of the word עני (poor person), it was originally written בעב"י, an abbreviation that stands for בעל בית (Master of the House, or in this case owner of the field). Such a change would reverse the meaning that the owner of field has more power with sheaves than with standing crops, since by sheaves he does not have to give Leket and gets to keep more crops for himself. I have to admit that such an emendation of the text is preposterous. First of all there is no indication of any kind in any manuscript or early commentator that there ever was such a reading. Secondly, it does not make any sense that suddenly Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel would discuss the power of the owner of the field, when this Tosefta until this point and the next Tosefta only discuss the power of the poor. It does not even make sense to discuss the power of the owner since the subject matter is gifts to the poor and it is the poor whose power we are concerned with, not the owner.

Rash Mishantz in his commentary on the Mishna (Peah 6:8) solves this problem by a different emendation. He simply says that the text of the Tosefta should be corrected based on the text of Talmud Yerushalmi, which switches the words “sheaf” and “standing crops”, thus Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel says that the poor person has more power with standing crops than with sheaves. This, of course, refers to the more common case of the next Tosefta and the odd case of two Seahs is simply ignored.

This change does not seem plausible to me either based on the response of the Chachamim to Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel, at least according to the Vienna manuscript reading. See note 10 below. Their response implies that he intended to use the odd case of two Seahs only in hi Kal Vechomer, and they pointed out to him that it is not that simple, and that really there two cases that can look at it either way, and therefore his Kal Vechomer does not work.

  1. The Chachamim simply responded that he does not have to look at the odd case of two Seahs only, where the power of the poor is greater with a sheaf. He can also look at the regular case of the three gifts to the poor verses two gifts by standing crops. And since there are two cases which show that both the sheaf and the standing crops give power to the poor, Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel’s Kal Vechomer does not work. It also makes sense that the next Tosefta would state the Chachamim’s logic of both cases. It is even possible that the next Tosefta is a part of their response and not a separate statement, which makes sense as well.

  2. I have stated the response of the Chachamim to Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel based on the reading in the Vienna manuscript. The Erfurt manuscript changed the reading based on how it appears in Talmud Yerushalmi, and replaced the word יִיפָּה in the last sentence with the word שהורע, changing the reading of the last sentence to: “… so too the sheaf should disqualify the standing crops by which the power of the poor person is weak.” However, that reading requires changing the statement of Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel like it appears in the Yerushalmi also, as Rash Mishantz proposed. I have chosen to keep the text of the Tosefta as is without any emendations since its logic can be easily worked out as I have shown.

 

Who are the Minim in Tosefta Chulin 2:6?

June 10th, 2012 4 comments

 

I was learning Mishna (Chulin 2:9) with my son and we came across the following passage which also appears in the Tosefta (Chulin 2:6):

אין שוחטין לא לתוך ימים ולא לתוך נהרות ולא לתוך מים עכורין אבל שוחט או לתוך אגן של מים ובספינה על גבי כלים ואם אין לו מקום מקום בספינה שוחט לתוך הים ואם אין רוצה לטנף את ביתו שוחט לתוך כלי או לתוך גומא ובשוק לא יעשה כן מפני שעושה את חוקי מינין אם עשה כן צריך בדיקה. הבשר שנמצא ביד גוי מותר בהנאה ביד המין אסור בהנאה.

We do not slaughter [animals for food, so that their blood spills directly] into seas, and not into rivers, and not into standing water. But he [can] slaughter [such that the blood spills directly] either into a water hole, or [if he is] on a ship [then] on top of vessels. But if he does not have [enough] room on the ship [he can] slaughter [so that the blood spills directly] into the sea. And if he does not want to make his house dirty [he can] slaughter [so that the blood spills directly] into [an empty] vessel on into a hole [made in the floor of the house]. But in the market place he should not do this, because [this is considered to be] doing an act of sectarians (Minim). [But] if he [already] did this [then] he needs to be checked [out by the Bet Din if he is really a sectarian and therefore should be kicked out from the Jewish community or not]. Meat that is found in the hand of a Non-Jew is permitted to be benefited from, but [meat that is found] in the hand of a sectarian (Min) is forbidden to be benefited from.

The reason why animals cannot be slaughtered so that their blood spills in all of these things is because onlookers might say that the person is not slaughtering this animal for food, but is rather sacrificing it to the god of that object. For example, it was a common practice among Greeks and Romans to slaughter animals directly over the water of the sea while traveling on a boat in order to appease the god Poseidon (god of the sea) so that he would not bring a storm and wreck the ship. What caught my attention was the last statement of the Mishna and the Tosefta which says that in the market place a person cannot slaughter an animal into a vessel or a hole in the ground, because that would be acting like the law of the sectarians (Minim), and therefore onlookers might suspect him to be one of these Minim. From the following statement in the Tosefta it is obvious that Minim are not regular Non-Jewish idol worshipers, because it says that it is permitted to receive benefit from a piece of meat found in the hand of a Non-Jew, but not permitted if it is found in the hand of a Min. So who are these Minim and what did they actually do in public places that would cause the Rabbis to prevent the Jews from doing it so that they would not be suspected to be Minim and if they were seen to do so then they had to be investigated by the Bet Din as a suspect Min?

The Hebrew word Min (literally: type) usually refers to some kind of sect of Jews who have deviated from normative Rabbinic Judaism and created a sort of their own religion. As a generalization the Rabbis have viewed Tzedukim (Sadducees), early Jewish Christians (Notzrim or Nazarenes as they called them), and Essenes as sectarian Jews and applied the word Min to them as a general term. However in this particular case it would be a major oversimplification and would not do them justice to apply this term generically, because it is obvious that the Mishna and the Tosefta are referring to a very particular practice of a particular sect, which made was a clear sign of membership that made the Rabbis very nervous. Here Min cannot refer to a regular Jew who decided to worship idols as some commentators have suggested, because an idol worshipping Jew would simply be called a Yisrael Mumar (A Jewish Transgressor) and they would not need to make a whole investigation in court to find out who he really is, because such a Jew did not pose any danger to the community. He was simply violating a Torah law and had to be punished for his actions, but nothing more than that. 

I was not able to figure out which specific sect the Mishna and the Tosefta refer to. Anyone who can shed light on this issue please post in comments or write to me at support@toseftaonline.org.

 

 

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June 10th, 2012 No comments